As We Celebrate the First International Day of The Girl Child,,,
As we celebrate the first International Day of The Girl Child this year, at least 10 million girls every year continue to be pulled out from schools to be married off, pay off family debts or work as child labourers. Girls throughout the world face higher rates of violence, poverty, or discrimination. They are either exploited or thrown into dire poverty, their chance of living better lives greatly diminished by the lack or deprivation of the opportunity to be educated.
The International Day of The Girl Child puts emphasis in promoting the importance of girls' education, equal treatment and opportunities for girls around the world in various areas such as education, law, nutrition, health care, freedom from violence and abuse, empowerment, and eliminating the tragedy of child brides.
It is tragic that their youth is stolen from them when they are married off at such a young age, exposed to human slavery, or poverty. Child brides banished into slavery or sexual exploitation are common stories. Some experience extreme suffering of being physically brutalized and sexually abused into prostitution by their own spouses or relatives. The fact that most of these young girls hardly have an education worsens their condition. They become dependent on their spouse and unable to support themselves. They are exposed to the responsibility and health risk of early pregnancy and motherhood. These are realities that face the world today.
As part of collaborative efforts among nations, governments have agreed on child brides and girls' education as among major global concerns that have to be resolved. The treatment of females as secondary or non-priority members of the family however slows down progress in eliminating the practice of child brides and making education available for all. It comes with the recognition that to be able to achieve these, there is a need to promote gender equality and provide an avenue for females to be educated.
Awareness campaigns and strategies launched by the United Nations, governments and volunteer groups have helped narrow down the gender gap and provided more opportunities for girls to have an education and avoid early marriage. Though there have been marked developments in narrowing the gap, the reality is that the problem still persists among many countries where females are regarded as the inferior gender. This in effect has stunted the rapid development of these countries. The challenges ahead are humongous. In this day and age, girls speaking out and asserting their rights continue to be threatened. Such is the case of 14-year old Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai. She survived a shot in the head by Talibans who vow to try killing her again. Her “crime?” – fighting for girls’ right to have an education.
The growing concern on the plight of young girls trafficked, enslaved or exposed to some form of abuse or discrimination shows that people will not take this quietly. Open protests and girls continuing to fight for their rights despite threats clearly show the change of the times. They realize the risks involved in standing up to grave opposition but there is no other direction to go but forward. There is no room for fear if we are to achieve equality and justice for girls marginalized because of their gender.